Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Good Guys

Any of you who have already read How NOT to Buy a Cruising Boat know that we're pretty hard on most marine professionals. Our experience with them, and most everyone we talk to as well, is pretty much unilaterally bad. So when we run into some good marine professionals, we like to talk them up. We had such an experience earlier this summer when we hired Art Johnson Marine Surveyors. Art was a consummate professional, and tempered our very bad experiences with all of the previous surveyors we had dealt with. Now that we're getting ready to leave Oak Harbor Marina and head south in the Chesapeake I thought it was a good time to talk about one of the best places we've been fortunate to have Kintala in the past 2 years.

Oak Harbor Marina, situated deep in Rock Creek on the northern Chesapeake, is a boat yard. If you're looking for a resort to pamper you with clear water pools and hot tubs and outdoor bars, this is not the place for you. If you're looking for a hard-core, hard-working, fair priced boat yard full of employees with integrity the likes I haven't seen in many others, this is definitely the place for you. When you first arrive, it's likely that the yard manager J.B.'s firm handshake and warm greeting will be the first you experience. If you're pulling into the haulout pit, his meticulously maintained sailboat will be the one you see alongside, a testimony to the quality of work you can expect.

Josh, A.J, Derek, J.B., and Chris

If you're coming for a rigging inspection or replacement, Chris will be your man. If you've followed the blog for awhile, you'll remember that this is where we launched our full time cruising adventure. It's where we replaced the standing rigging on Kintala, and where we chose to return for a rigging inspection this summer. Chris is careful and methodical in his inspections, a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed in the boating world, since many insurance jobs are sent here for completion. Chris is also a master at parts sourcing and has rarely let me down in obtaining any part I needed.


If you're coming for fiberglass work or painting, the very talented Josh is the guy you want. I had the chance to see his work up close and personal as a boat with a 10" or so hole punched right through the port bow topsides came to his shop for repair recently. If it wasn't for the repaired area being cleaner than the rest of the very dirty boat, you would never know where the damage had been when he finished.  Major or minor fiberglass repair or paint jobs are no challenge.

A.J. and Derek are the boat yard crew. No matter the time of day, the day of the week, the temperature, or their schedule, these guys are working hard. So hard, that it took me over an hour just to get all five of the guys in one place for a picture. No matter, they still manage to find time to greet you warmly. Clearly they love what they do because smiles and laughter abound during the work day. Derek even finds the time to race in the Wednesday club races and is an excellent racing captain.

On site at Oak Harbor Marina they also have a full-service engine shop, Anderson Marine. Nelson and his crew never seem to leave. They're the first ones there and the last ones to leave nearly every day. Fortunately, we haven't had to utilize their services but if you need it done, they're there for you.

Aside from the skilled people here, the thing that makes Oak Harbor stand out is the customer service. Ken and Barb Broman, the owners of Oak Harbor Marina, set the tone for their team, and it's one that puts the customer in the forefront. There is never any doubt that things will be done right, a rarity in the marine services industry. It was one of the main reasons we chose to sail all the way back north to put Kintala here while we went back to St. Louis to sell the condo and to work on her after we returned. As I think back on the two years since we left our home slip at Boulder Marina, only a handful of faces in the marine services industry come to mind. Craig at Tradewinds (customer service defined), Gerry at Cameron Marine Transport, the folks at Dinner Key Moorings and the guys at Oak Harbor. It's a small, exclusive club, and one that we've been happy to be on the receiving end of.

So if you happen to be looking for a great place to haul your boat for some work, consider Oak Harbor Marina. Now that Kintala is leaving, they may need someone else to keep them busy!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

THIS is why

Future Sailor! Photo courtesy of Tiffany McCormick
It has been far, far too long since Kintala last filled her sails with wind and danced across the water. But today that dreary trend was ended with a marvelous sail. We have family here, Matt and Tiff and their two daughters. Two years ago they provided good support during the crush of getting our old Tartan ocean ready and on her way, but we never got a chance to take them out on the boat. Another consideration was that their daughters were much younger back then. Two years do not mean as much to a 60 year old cruiser as they do to a (then) two-year-old. This time around, with Kintala fresh from a summer's worth of work and having proved herself over 4000 NM, two trips to the Islands, and a trip down and up the East coast, they were all looking forward to seeing what we keep talking about.

The forecast was for less than 10 knots worth of wind. Just about perfect for a shake-down run and introducing people to life on the water. The Beast rumbled to life, we cast the ties away from the friends we are rafted with, who also kept the Dink so we didn't have to load it on the deck or drag it along behind. (Something that we actually never do.) We haven't sailed Kintala sans Dink since leaving the Midwest, and that turns out to be a good idea when one is scraping the rust off of sailing habits. I had to make a couple of trips to the bow and it is sure easier when the Dink isn't in the way.


My nephew Matt getting a feel for the helm
Out on the Bay we found a little wind from a direction where we could hold a close reach, perfect conditions for flying every bit of canvas available aloft. It took a minute or two, and the aforementioned trips to the bow, to get all the lines where they needed to be. But eventually I worked out all the tangles, sheeting everything in tight. I swear Kintala damn near did a pirouette of pure joy, lay the port rail near the water, and took off. Boat speed climbed into the high 8s.

This is why we came this way.

After a while our youngest guest grew a little unhappy with the angle of heel. Apparent wind was just touching 20 knots, which is about the max for flying everything anyway. We rolled in the big jib, tacked around, and headed back toward Rock Creek at a much more sedate 5+ knots.

Getting the boat out on the water was a kind of festival day for all of us. It turns out this is the last day of summer vacation. Tomorrow the girls report to class rooms and Mom and Dad, who both work in education, take up their own end-of-summer challenges. Deb and I see summers from the other side. For us summer is a season to hide from hurricanes and labor away at keeping Kintala a ship in shape. We closed out the day with a trip to the ice cream parlor, our raft-up friends joining in to enjoy the tasty treats.

This is why we came this way.

Cheese curls are better than sailing any day!
Photo courtesy of Tiffany McCormick

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Reply to a reader

Many of the people who read "How NOT to Buy a Cruising Boat" touch bases with us afterward.  Since it is a modest number we are able to keep up with the correspondence which, it turns out, it one of the coolest things about having written a book.

A recent reply to someone who has wandered in the higher offices of a boat manufacturer (and who agreed with our take on the industry) took off in directions unexpected and turned itself into a blog post.  So I figured I would post it.

(No permission asked so Name not Included),

I am glad you enjoyed the book and thank you for the kind words. Virtually everyone we know, and who lives full time on a sailboat, has horror stories of dealing with the marine industry. Stories that go far beyond those of dealing with any other industry. It is a shame really, and I often wish that our story of "How NOT to Buy a Cruising Boat" was one that didn't need to be written. The cruising life, though not for everyone, is one that respects the realities everyone on the planet is learning to face. A cruising boat can be, and many are, nearly energy independent. Power is point produced and consumption is balanced carefully against that production. There are waste water treatment systems that allow the cruiser to leave the water behind them cleaner than it was. Water makers are common and getting ever better, allowing the cruiser to produce fresh water rather than lining up to consume the rapidly depleting store found on land. Both waste treatment and fresh water making are onsite capabilities that do not rely on complicated, expensive infrastructures vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters.

Cruising boats, at least the ones most of us can afford, are extremely efficient living spaces. We estimate Kintala has about 400 square feet in which to fit our lives. Yet it is all that we need to live well whereever we want to be. The "bigger is better" mentality of America will soon be passé, if it isn't already. Downsizing is a step forward in the quality of one's life, not a step back. Greed is not good, and "mine is bigger than yours" is the most childish of empty boasts. It is an illness of the heart that Mother Earth will cure one way or the other, and future generations will be better for it.  

Cruising boats are, by their very definition, mobile. Rising sea levels may impact the marinas we visit, but they will not be flooding our basements and reducing our boats' "property value" to zero. Boats can, and many of us do, simply move with the seasons to avoid the worst of the storms and weather. This isn't to say that everyone should be a nomad, but nomads do ease the burden on the earth.  When it is hot we move to places that don't need air conditioning.  When it is cold we move to places that don't need heat. Those rooted to one place are, in no manor, inferior to those of us who wander. But the reverse is true as well.

Which is the long way of saying that the marine industry could be, and should be, on the leading edge, the proving ground, of designing, manufacturing, delivering, and supporting, the kinds of efficient, infrastructure independent, yet comfortable and safe housing that the world needs to face the future. Instead it has become the playground for knaves and thieves of all sorts, profiteers and hustlers.

"How NOT to buy a Cruising Boat" is our story, but it is also a story of an industry that is missing a huge opportunity to do good things in the world.

Thanks again, maybe we will see you somewhere along the way.  Kintala will turn her bow south in the next week or so. With any luck she will be in No Name Harbor again, long before the year runs out.

Tj

Friday, August 28, 2015

Mornings


The clouds whirled past the v-berth hatch, slowed, then spun the other way. That isn't something most people see when first waking up in the morning. Clouds don't move that way. But boats riding to their anchor swing.  If it is a smooth motion the illusion is that the v-berth is still and it is the clouds that are swinging around. It is a fun illusion and a good way to start a day.

Coffee is a good way to start a day. Coffee in the cockpit of a small sailboat sitting easy to its rode and surrounded by water makes the coffee taste better. Add a gentle north wind that has dropped the temperatures to perfect-for-coffee and wrung some of the humidity out of the air. That is going to be the best cup of coffee in the world.  One should not hurry through the best cup of coffee in the world.

Unless there is a need to be moving the boat early in the morning to catch a tide or a weather window, there are no alarms set on Kintala. We go to bed when we feel like it. We get up when we get up. There is no time clock to punch, no Boss gazing over the warren of cubicles, watching to see who is the first to arrive, who is the last. Sometimes there is a good day's work to get done, but it is rare for such work to dictate an actual start time. The relentless lash of the clock has been replaced by the natural unfolding of a day: sun rise and set, moon rise and set, and tides. Starting a day on the sure footing human kind evolved to know, is a good way to start a day.

As is the want of many people living in the west, checking the news is part of starting a day. I don't usually get far into that. Four or five headlines in is all it takes to know that not much has changed in the world. There is nothing to be gained by slogging through the details. Move on to the weather, something that does matter to those living on a small boat. Look at the sky, see if it looks like the weather forecasters have any clue as to what they speak. Decide if plans need to be modified or the boat prepared in some way. Making the decisions that directly affect living for that day, not a bad way to spend part of a morning.

A boat check goes right along with a weather check. It is a good idea to check on the battery condition / solar panel output once the sun is well and up. Once in a while a little boost will be needed, which usually means bringing the little Honda gen-set into play. Another good idea is a slow walk around the deck, coffee in hand, just to see that all is well with our tiny floating home. It is rare to find anything amiss, but missing something amiss will spoil a day sooner or later.

I don't remember mornings being as pleasant when we lived on land. But I have grown pretty fond of them since moving onto the boat.

So long as they don't come too early in the day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The List

Just a little while ago, when the sun dipped below the horizon, we blew our conch horn to celebrate the fact that we finally got off the dock at Oak Harbor Marina today. Even though we're only anchored just a few boat lengths from our previous slip, there's a mental boost to finally hanging on the hook. As I'm wont to do when we have reached some particularly impressive date, I did some assessments. We did pretty well on completing our summer project list and I got to thinking that since we did pretty well on those, I would take a look at The Master List which I hadn't done for awhile.

A long time ago Tim turned "The List" over to me. He got so frustrated with the fact that things were getting added on to the bottom of the list faster than he could get them off so he just stopped tracking it at all. Whatever project bothered him the most at that particular time on that particular day was what got tackled. I only took over the list because I do the finances and needed to have an idea what we were going to spend. As I perused the list I was a bit taken aback by everything we have done. Somehow (thank the good Lord) I had just put most of it out of my mind.

I'm sure that The List is not complete, that I've forgotten to put some things on it over the years, but I thought you might still like to see what it's like to maintain a cruising boat for 4 years. Keep in mind that this list does not include any of the regular maintenance items like oil changes and lemon oiling the interior teak and routine changing of the zincs and polishing stainless. Any item without a complete date is still on the list to do, but they are precious few and they are going to wait for awhile. We're going sailing.


Item Date

Repaired
1 Cracks in Spreader Brackets April 2011
2 Remove speaker wire from bilge April 2011
3 Loose wires in A/C cabinet April 2011
4 Gel coat repair Starb. Hull April 2011
5 Touch up bottom paint April 2011
6 Remove Loran April 2011
7 Floor loose at cabin table April 2011
8 Clean, dry, inspect bilge April 2011
9 Install screens on dorad inlets April 2011
10 Install screen on anchor locker door April 2011
11 Bimini straps badly frayed April 2011
12 Seal Screw holes in Sump Tank April 2011
13 2 Fwd screws on teak walkway leaking April 2011
14 Lights in head inop April 2011
15 Several teak slats loose on aft cockpit seat April 2011
16 Ignition switch loose in panel April 2011
17 Install screens on hatches May-2011
18 Sump Tank switch missing May-2011
19 All deck fittings need new "O" rings May-2011
20 Lazy Jack bracket has sheared screw May-2011
21 Helm needs refinished May-2011
22 Sump Pump impeller needs replaced May-2011
23 Install non-skid on steps May-2011
24 Install GFI outlet in galley May-2011
25 No Main Sail May-2011
26 Cap line in holding tank May-2011
27 Salon table lights inop / broken / wires disconnected May-2011
28 Install track in Mast May-2011
29 Replace inner forestay halyard May-2011
30 Remove / Replace Nav chair May-2011
31 Re-stitch Bimini May-2011
32 Port / Aft Corner of hatch needs repaired May-2011
33 Install new cap in holding tank flush fitting (anchor locker) May-2011
34 Head door hinges need repaired May-2011
35 Sump pump shorted May-2011
36 Roller furler line needs replaced May-2011
37 Replace 2 halyards June-2011
38 Add 2 mast head halyards June-2011
39 Top of jib torn at luff cord June-2011
40 Water line at water heater needs replaced June-2011
41 Water line Check valves need replaced June-2011
42 Sump float switch needs raised June-2011
43 Install interior LEDs June-2011
44 LPG Bottles need replaced June-2011
45 Build companionway screen June-2011
46 Replaced ignition and pre-heat switch with new June-2011
47 Forward Cleat Starb side loose June-2011
48 Make mail sail cover June-2011
49 New mattress for V-berth June-2011
50 Light in head needs replaced June-2011
51 Polish Plexiglas ports June-2011
52 Companionway trim needs repair clean & Paint June-2011
53 Rebed Starb Center Bimini mount July-2011
54 Salon hatch leaking - needs re-bedded July-2011
55 Make foredeck and cabin boom tents July-2011
56 Reseal toe rail edge to deck July-2011
57 Sand and oil dorade boxes July-2011
58 Rebed port bow cleat July-2011
59 Rebed port fowd lifeline stantion July-2011
60 Lazerett aft hinge loose July-2011
61 Sand and oil toe rail July-2011
62 Gally foot pump faucet leaking July-2011
63 Alt belt or water pump squealing July-2011
64 Two open hoses in engine compartment / use? July-2011
65 Secondary Fuel filter missing nut July-2011
66 Swim Ladder brackets loose and missing nuts July-2011
67 Stbd winch cleat leaking at mount bolts July-2011
68 Replace broken interior trim at mast July-2011
69 Redo cockpit aft storage area / remove radio July-2011
70 V-Berth hatch leaking / port latch? July-2011
71 Sand and refinish trim at fwd hatch & companionway interior July-2011
72 Head door top frame piece needs secured July-2011
73 Sand and oil hand rails July-2011
74 A/C control head intermit July-2011
75 Forward hatch gasket leaking / replace all hatch gaskets August-2011
76 Replace engine covers sound dampning August-2011
77 Sound deaden 'fridge compressor Sept-2011
78 Install storage box under aft hatch and fixt hatch hinge Sept-2011
79 Toppinig lift broken Sept-2011
80 Installed Lavac Head / installed new waste water lines Oct-2011
81 Replaced floor under head with 1/2' Corian Oct-2011
82 Plumb in deck wash fitting / port side Oct-2011
83 Remove and replace engine mounts Nov-2011
84 Sheared stud in aft / starb engine mount Nov-2011
85 Aft Cabin hatches - inside trim needs sand and stain Nov-2011
86 Re-stitch Bimini Dec-2011
87 Build storage / seat box for nav station Feb-2012
88 Assemble and install hatches (4) Feb-2012
89 Fwd Comapnionway trim split and rotting Mar-2012
90 Installed hinge on 'fridge lid Mar-2012
91 Fab & Install spash guard in galley Mar-2012
92 Build and install spice rack for aft galley wall Mar-2012
93 Build and install sliding cutting board / counter for stove top Mar-2012
94 Water lines need replaced April-2012
95 Install light bar over sink Mar-2012
96 Replace fan in V-berth Mar-2012
97 Replace fan in aft cabin Mar-2012
98 Replace manifold for hot water system Mar-2012
99 Paint aft hatch frame May-2012
100 Repair muffler June-2012
101 Install light bar over fridge July-2012
102 Construct dodger Aug-2012
103 Install new sink drain Oct-2012
104 Replace windlass gypsy Dec-2012
105 Replace salon cushions with new Jan-2013
106 Build bulkhead table to replace existing dining table April-2013
107 Repair shaft coupler to transmission May-2013
108 Complete 8 month replacement of V-drive and Transmission June-2013
109 Construct tool room/workshop July-2013
110 Install new propeller Aug-2013
111 Install holding tank monitor Aug-2013
112 Install new Mantus anchor Aug-2013
113 Repair mast weld Aug-2013
114 Repair smile crack Aug-2013
115 Sand paint blisters off Aug-2013
116 Paint bottom Aug-2013
117 Build shelves in Tim's closet Aug-2013
118 Begin Cape Horn installation Aug-2013
119 Repair rudder tube Sept-2013
120 Repair rudder Sept-2013
121 Install inline water filters Sept-2013
122 Install drinking water filter/faucet Sept-2013
123 Repair rudder shoe Sept-2013
124 Repair fuel injection pump Nov-2013
125 Replace glow plug relay Nov-2013
126 Rebed galley sink Nov-2013
127 Rig preventer Jan-2014
128 Repair and rebed traveler Aug-2014
129 Repair and rebed aft cabin port Aug-2014
130 Repair large soft spot in forward deck Aug-2014
131 Add staysail roller furling Aug-2014
132 Replace oven thermostat Sept-2014
133 Rebuild heat exchanger Sept-2014
134 Install solar panels Jan-2015
135 Repair dinghy leak Jan-2015
136 Build phone rack Feb-2015
137 Finish aft cabin sun lights Feb-2015
138 Rebuild winches May-2015
139 Replumb galley sink drain May-2015
140 Rebed forward cleats May-2015
141 Add charging plug to V-berth July-2015
142 Repair improperly installed alternator bracket July-2015
143 Paint bottom July-2015
144 Install autopilot for wind vane July-2015
145 Install inverter July-2015
146 Install propane sniffer July-2015
147 Install LED strip lights in salon July-2015
148 Recover pillows and sew slip covers July-2015
149 Convert pilot berth to shelving July-2015
150 Recover nav seat July-2015
151 Replace raw water pump with new July-2015
152 Change exhaust clamps July-2015
153 Re-skin bimini Aug-2015
154 Rebuild solar panel mounts Aug-2015
155 Add new solar panel Aug-2015
156 Design and construct connector between bimini and dodger Aug-2015
157 Add chafe protection to edges of dodger Aug-2015
158 Replace improperly installed bow chock Aug-2015
159 Service windlass Aug-2015
160 Refinish cabin floor
161 Repaint non-skid on deck.
162 Repaint non-skid in aft cabin
163 Add remote oil change system
164 Add LED strip lights in aft cabin
165 Replace anchor chain
166 Sew enclosure
167 Install overboard plumbing

Our new canvas connector between the dodger and the bimini.